Join young people nationwide standing up for their futures with the This is Zero Hour Youth Climate March. This movement of young activists and organizers is fighting to protect the rights and access to natural resources and a clean, safe and healthy environment. Meet the 16-year-old organizer of the Los Angeles march, Arielle Martinez Cohen, who is using music and activism to bring people together around a livable future. The LA Zero Hour March will take place on Saturday, July 21 outside of Los Angeles City Hall.
Q&A with LA Organizer Arielle Martinez Cohen
Sixteen-year-old Arielle Martinez Cohen heads up the Los Angeles chapter of This is Zero Hour, a movement to center the voices of diverse youth in the conversation around climate and environmental justice. The Youth Climate March: This is Zero Hour LA is July 21, 2018, when a march on D.C. and sister marches nationwide are taking place to fight for concrete action around climate change.
How did you first get involved with Zero Hour?
I first heard about Zero Hour when I read an article that Jaime, the founder and president of Zero Hour, did on CNN. I’m actually a singer-songwriter, and I do a lot of social justice songs, so I DM’ed her on Instagram and asked if she wanted to hear a song, and about how to get involved in the march. She really liked the song, it is called “Two Minutes in the Night,” and it’s kind of depressing because it’s about the end of the world, but it fits with the movement and so she actually made it the song of the march. As I was talking to her, she said there needed to be a sister march in LA, and so I decided to start heading the organization here.
What were the first steps in planning the upcoming Zero Hour Youth Climate March here in LA?
It took a while to start the organization process, but I initially started by building a team. I went to the national die-in here in LA at City Hall and was talking to some of the organizers of that. They offered to help organize Zero Hour, and they got some friends, and then we used the app Slack and around the same time we got our permits. We submitted the permit back in May, but things didn’t start picking up until the beginning of June and that’s when we got the first members of our team.
Right now it’s actually kind of weird because there’s another march virtually the same time and place on the same day, so we’re having a little complication with that. It’s the Families Belong Together March, and of course we want both marches to be successful so that’s what we’re trying to figure out right now.
How have things changed for you since you’ve started working with Zero Hour, and how has your involvement in climate justice developed?
My parents have always been into climate action. My mom held a lightbulb drive with everyone in our community to switch to LEDs, so my parents have always taught me about what I can do to help the climate. But I hadn’t ever gotten involved directly with activism until the March For Our Lives.
I’d written about social issues, but I’d never been involved with the direct planning, so when the March For Our Lives came along, I helped with that because it was really inspiring. Before that I never realized that as a kid I could make a difference, but once I started doing that I was like, oh my gosh, this is really cool, I really like it.
When I heard about Jamie’s movement for Zero Hour, I really wanted to get on board. This is the first march that I’m actually spearheading, or the sister march at least.
How long have you been making music, and how did that start?
I was in the West LA Children’s Choir when I was nine until I was 12 or 13, and after that I started recording my own songs. Last summer I went to Grammy Camp and have been working on my songwriting, but I would say since 13 I’ve been writing songs.
What do you see as the role of music in movements like Zero Hour?
I was actually just at the Families Belong Together meeting last night to try and coordinate the marches, and someone was saying this which I thought was really cool: that there’s one thing about having speakers and a chant to get people together, but when everyone can sing a song and get involved, and this one song is a movement, it really really brings people together and it really inspires them. With the amount of people who are singing the song, the amount of people who are coming out to the movement, it really brings people together.
Who are some of your musical inspirations and role models?
As for inspirations, that’s such a hard question, I guess I look at what Bob Dylan did. He’s not part of my generation’s music, but it’s inspiring to see somebody who did that before. My dad’s obsessed with him, I grew up listening to him, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles.
What’s the plan for Zero Hour LA after the July 21 march?
For the Zero Hour LA team, we’re talking about for this march on the 21st, making it more correlated with the national demands, but we’re also talking about having another one for more local legislation. I heard there’s a bill that may be passed in California for banning plastic straws unless a customer asks for them, which I think is awesome, so something like that where we can push local legislation.
What do you say to other young people who aren’t sure about getting involved or aren’t sure how they might get involved?
Don’t doubt the things you can do. Before I got involved in this organization, I was kind of meek, I didn’t know how much I could do. But just getting out there, going to meetings, talking to people. If you’re of voting age, go vote. Honestly we have more power than we think. One of the demands of the movement is to restore democracy, because of all those elected officials who are taking money from fossil fuel corporations, and I really feel that if we get enough young people to vote we can restore democracy and bring back the power — to us.
What’s something you might say to people of all ages who would be interested in helping Zero Hour here in LA?
Come support! We definitely love all the help we can get, and it’s good to know that older generations support us because without that support I don’t know where we would be. The national Zero Hour movement is actually looking for funding, so you can make donations as well.